It would be terrific even if it had been named Club Smurfit. While there is absolutely no getting away from whose brainchild the Kildare Hotel and Country Club is, with one of the 18-hole courses named after its founder, Michael Smurfit, plus more photographs of the man to be found than you can shake a 7 iron at, this is still a superb golfing venue, immortalised by the 2006 Ryder Cup. It is better known to its many fans simply as the K Club.
And with times tough in the Republic of Ireland there are some very attractive deals around that will allow you to walk the same narrow, water-lined fairways as the golfing greats of Europe and the USA did during their epic Ryder Cup battle. And such an opportunity should certainly not be missed.
The K Club will never come cheap but for the unadulterated luxury that greets the visitor to this truly stunning 550-acre country retreat some 50 minutes from Dublin airport it will prove money well spent. The centrepiece of the operation is the splendid Straffan House, which has occupied part of its existing site since the sixth century.
Having fallen on hard times during the years following World War II it was snapped up by Smurfit, who made his millions out of packaging, and a property developer partner in 1991. The old house was lovingly converted into its current opulent state more than doubling in size to provide sumptuous new dining and bedroom areas in a style almost undetectable from the original 19th-century building.
Not content with spending millions on the hotel, Smurfit decided he wanted golf to feature high on the list of attractions so recruited Arnold Palmer to build two courses, one of which has been named after its designer and the other after the man who paid for them.
And the Arnold Palmer is most definitely the one to play, not least in that it was the setting for Europe’s famous Ryder Cup victory in 2006. This is a truly glorious parkland course with the River Liffey never far away, although it is fair to say this is no place for the novice, especially when played off the blue tees which stretch a daunting course to 7,337 yards.
The K Club will never come cheap but for the unadulterated luxury that greets the visitor to this truly stunning 550-acre country retreat some 50 minutes from Dublin airport it will prove money well spent.
From the moment one stands on the elevated 1st tee, gazing down a corridor framed by towering pines there is an atmosphere about the course that belies its years, a feeling that you know you are playing something very special.
While there are no poor holes, the last three rank as truly outstanding. The 16th is a monster of 570 yards with the Liffey running all the way down the left and across the front of the green. And there is no bail-out right, just three huge bunkers and more broadleaf trees. For many golfers this hole could easily be a par six, choosing to lay up rather than take a gamble on the third where more sand and the river await hungrily.
The Liffey continues its journey all along the 424-yard 17th where the ideal drive is down the left by the water rather than face being shut out by trees on the right hand side of the narrowest of fairways. The green slopes right to left down into the water too making this the ultimate penultimate.
The last takes you home alongside the lake that Paul McGinley leapt into after the European triumph of 2006, and is rightly known as ‘Hooker’s Graveyard’. Go left and you’re wet, right and huge sand traps are positioned to gobble up anything errant. Only long and straight will do.
Having holed out on 18 take one last look back, across the water where a fountain dances, through the riotous shades of green and rejoice that, before you take a pint or two of the creamy porter in the most welcoming of clubhouses, you have just played one of Europe’s very best.